- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2020

The U.S. and British delegations to a European security organization are attacking Russia’s human rights record, one week after armed Russian authorities raided more than 100 homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In particular, the U.S. delegation undermined the Russian government’s claims that Jehovah’s Witnesses, a persecuted religious minority in the former communist nation, engaged in “conspiracy measures” to cloak reports and communications in “electronic form” and used video conferencing.

“I use such ‘conspiracy measures’ on a daily basis and I would point out to anyone that members of the Russian delegation participating in this meeting remotely are — at this very moment — guilty of engaging in such activities,” said Lane Darnell Bahl, acting political counselor at the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, in an address to the Permanent Council, Vienna, on Thursday. “These justifications are both absurd and shameful.”

The U.S. delegation’s criticism followed similar condemnation by U.K. diplomats, who noted the crackdown on Jehovah’s Witnesses — spurred by detention and prosecution under the country’s “extremist” laws — has spanned three years.

“We repeat our concern that the increasing number of searches, as well as use of simultaneous large-scale home raids, creates the impression of an organized campaign of persecution against Jehovah’s Witnesses,” said Nicola Murray, deputy head of the UK Delegation to the OSCE Permanent Council.

Last week, Russian authorities took credit for 110 searches of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Voronezh Region. Their crimes, said Russian authorities, were holding meetings, organizing religious performances and “preaching work” to attract new supporters.

A spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witness faith decried the attacks as the “largest series of raids” in modern Russia.

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